Last modified on July 7, 2019, at 18:27

TWA Flight 800

TWA Flight 800 was an airliner which exploded and crashed off Long Island on July 17, 1996, killing all 230 aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board found that the crash was caused by the explosion of the center wing fuel tank, possibly triggered by an electrical short.

The aircraft, a Boeing 747, is one of three Boeing jets since 1990 to fall victim to apparently spontaneous center wing tank explosions. The tank of a Philippine Airlines Boeing 737 exploded in Manila in 1990 and the tank of a Thai Airways International B737 exploded in Bangkok in 2001. In all three cases, the tanks had been emptied so that they contained only gasoline vapor and residual fuel. All three aircraft exploded on warm summer days. Since 2008, the Federal Aviation Administration has required inerting systems to address this problem.[1]

Based on eyewitness testimony, Pierre Salinger, press secretary for President John F. Kennedy, suggested the possibility of a missile strike. A missile strike would cause fragments to penetrate the plane at a much higher velocity than a fuel tank explosion would. Investigators found 163 fragmentation holes in the wreckage. All but two of these holes showed signs of low-velocity penetration.[2]

Witnesses, many on the ground, reported seeing a bright object "streaking" towards the 747. The object in question turned in midair as it closed on the jumbo jet. Witnesses reported horizontal travel, as well as vertical.[3]

One theory states the flight was brought down by a Stinger missile supplied to the Afghan mujihadeen during the Anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s and smuggled back into the United State. The bin Laden network and Iran, responsible for the World Trade Center bombing, Khobar Towers bombing, and attack on the USS Cole about the same time, may have been involved.[4]


  1. Evans, David, "Safety in Avionics: Time to Stop Fuel Tank Explosions", Avionics International, June 1, 2001.
  2. Pappalardo, Joe, "3 Reasons to Doubt the TWA Flight 800 Conspiracy Theory, Popular Mechanics, Jun 26, 2013.
  3. Rivero, Michael, Was TWA 800 Shot Down By a Military Missile?," What Really Happened?
  4. Marshall, William F., "We Need To Know If Intelligence Agencies Covered Up The 1996 Crash Of TWA 800," The Federalist, Sept. 18, 2018